After over a month without games for the University of North Texas football program following multiple cancellations and postponements, Apogee Stadium finally saw its home team in action Saturday as UNT defeated Rice University — and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases didn’t stop fans from showing up to the latest chapter in an unusual season.

Since UNT’s home and season opener against Houston Baptist, fans have largely shared a consensus that they feel safe attending the games and comfortable with the policies the university has in place. Despite the recent spike in COVID-19 cases — nationally, locally and even for the university’s own athletics department, which recently dropped to nine active cases after dealing with 30 at one point — most fans in attendance Saturday shared that consensus.

Austin Ettredge, a UNT alumnus who comes to the games with his son and much of his extended family, said he still feels comfortable attending despite the surge in virus activity because he and his family have been responsible.

“It’s at that point now where you do everything you can and just hold your breath,” Ettredge said.

As for player safety, Ettredge said he feels universities are also being responsible with how they manage their athletes, but that it’s hard to get a feel for the spread because of how much potential exposure they face on the field.

“There’s just so much exposure the athletes are around,” Ettredge said. “It’s hard to tell.”

Cory McCollum, another UNT alumnus who’s come to games for over a decade, said the decision should ultimately rest with the players themselves.

“As long as the players want to play and they feel good about their situation, let them make that decision,” McCollum said.

Phillip Long, a second-year college student in his first year at UNT, said he’s an example of someone at risk if he contracts the virus due to a health condition. While he said he feels the university’s safety policies are effective, both in day-to-day campus life and at events such as the football games, he also said he believes athletes have an advantage in keeping themselves protected.

“I feel like players are better off,” Long said. “They’re in a more controlled environment as opposed to the fans.”

UNT’s final home game is set for Dec. 3 against Louisiana Tech.

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